Frozen Four teams no stranger to the championship finale

by Brian Deutsch

This year’s Frozen Four competitors have 66 finals appearances between them.

Michigan (23 appearances), Boston College (21) and North Dakota (19) are all regular attendees to the championships.

What about Notre Dame, the fourth Frozen Four team? The Irish will make their first appearance in the program’s 40-year history tonight at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Notre Dame will take on the Wolverines at 8 p.m. while the Sioux/Eagles game starts at 5 p.m. Both games will air live on ESPN2.

Notre Dame vs. Michigan

The Irish will have an experienced partner for their first dance at the Frozen Four – the Wolverines’ nine national championships are the most of any Division I program.

It’s hard to say how this matchup will play out.

National No. 1 Michigan swept the only series these two teams played in the regular season (Jan. 18-19), but it did so in two very different fashions.

That Friday’s contest saw the Wolverines come back from a 2-0 deficit in the first period before freshman forward Louie Caporusso scored the game-winner with just 20 seconds left for a 3-2 win. Saturday, Michigan blew out the Irish 5-1.

“But it doesn’t matter,” senior forward Chad Kolarik said after the team’s 2-0 win over Clarkson, which sent the Wolverines to the Frozen Four. “The rankings, the seeds – you can throw them all away when you get to Denver.”

North Dakota vs. Boston College

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association set a conference record this year, sending six teams to the national tournament.

Only two remained after the first round, and the Sioux knocked off Wisconsin with a 3-2 overtime win in the Midwest Regional Championship.

Now, for the third straight year, North Dakota will face Boston College in the national semifinals.

“It’s going to be a heck of a game,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said after his team’s regional win. “They got us last year, and obviously that’s something that stays with you.”

Inside College Hockey’s National Goalie of the Year, senior Jean-Phillipe Lamoureux, will have his hands full tonight.

The Eagles are two-time defending runners–up and have Hobey Baker Award finalist junior forward Nathan Gerbe, one of only two Division I skaters to reach the 60-point mark (30 goals, 30 assists).

“I think that a lot of people probably felt that this team wasn’t going to make it with the ups and downs we were having this year,” senior defenseman Mike Brennan said. “But I think (our) 24 guys in that room never doubted that we were going to do it.”

The two teams met up earlier this year and played to a 0-0 tie.

Minnesota notes

Roseau defenseman Aaron Ness will be a member of the Minnesota men’s hockey team next season.

This year’s Mr. Hockey signed his letter of intent to play for the Gophers this week.

“(Ness is) a dynamic offensive defenseman who should be able to step right in and be in the mold of some of the great defensemen who have played here in the past,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said in a release.

Although he was listed as a junior last season for the Rams, Ness will graduate from high school in three years.

“Obviously, he is an outstanding student when you can combine two years of school into one,” Lucia said. “We’re also excited to have someone from a great program like Roseau. He comes from an outstanding winning tradition.”

In 92 career games, the defenseman tallied 44 goals and 100 assists. He was awarded the Associated Press Player of the Year and was named first team All-State along with his Mr. Hockey title.

Ness helped Roseau capture the state championship in 2007.

Frazee signs with Devils

Junior goaltender Jeff Frazee will forego his senior season with the Gophers after signing a two-way contract with the New Jersey Devils.

Freshman Alex Kangas replaced Frazee in January as the team’s everyday netminder and didn’t see the ice after being pulled in the first period of a 4-4 overtime tie with St. Cloud State.

Kangas’ consistent play kept Frazee on the bench, but the junior told the Pioneer Press he holds no ill will.

“(Kangas) was playing well and we were winning games,” Frazee said.

The signing was confirmed by the Gophers staff.

Frazee’s departure will make the net a need-to-fill spot on Minnesota’s depth-chart.

Kangas will be the returning starter but the Gophers will need to bring in a pair of new goalies, as practice netminder Brent Solei graduated.